Thursday, April 19, 2007

Preview: Revs - Columbus

The last time the Revolution visited Columbus, they played their last bad game of 2006. Coach Steve Nicol and company don't want to have their first bad game of 2007 when they play there again tonight. The 7:30 est game on ESPN2 will be the first nationally televised game for either team this year. Columbus gaffer Sigi Schmidt has more new talent to showcase to the country, whose soccer community is all too familiar with most of the Revolution lineup.

The first major change from last year is the addition of a proven MLS goal scorer in Andy Herron. He led the Chicago Fire in scoring last season and was the team's MVP. The Crew will also start unknown goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, who has posted two clean sheets to start the season, albeit during two scoreless draws.

Something that may worry New England is the probable return of Ricardo Virtuoso, who tore up the Revolution in their meeting last summer. The speedy left-sided Brazilian is an unknown in many MLS circles, but he certainly made me a believer when I watched him participate in all three goals during that dreary match at Crew Stadium.

One big question for New England is who will start as the second forward next to Taylor Twellman? Pat Noonan played at the end of both regular season games, plus he was good for 70+ minutes in the reserve game last Sunday. Adam Cristman has played competently, but Noonan should be the first choice starter when ready. The gaffer is of the opinion Noonan is 100% healed from his sports hernia surgery and it's just a matter of regaining fitness. We'll have to wait until tonight to see.

Probable lineups:

New England: Reis, Heaps, Riley, John, Ralston, Larentowicz, Joseph, Smith, Dorman, Twellman, Cristman

Columbus: Gruenebaum, Hejduk, Hendrickson, Gonzalez, Pierce, Ngwenya, O'Rourke, Grabavoy, Gavin, Herron, Garey